We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it. Stephen Hawking – The Guardian
Last December, as the death toll of California’s fast-moving brush fires was rising daily and Italy and France were still recovering from flooding after torrential rainfall, institutions and stakeholders from this side of the pond gathered in Rome for the European Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction exploring ways to accelerate the implementation of the Sendai Framework. The 2015 UN-endorsed voluntary agreement recognises that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, and, more importantly, it considers that success in managing the humanitarian and economic challenges posed by natural disasters can only be reached if the public and private sectors share responsibility. With this, it highlights the essential truth in the face of climate change: aut simul stabunt aut simul cadent: systems will either stand together, or fall together.
Observing the convergence between the different degrees of anthropization – i.e., the rapid urbanization and growth of megacities and more in particular to megacities resource and flows as a percentage of World values – and the geo-localization of natural loss events, it becomes clear how the risk at stake is growing substantially and cities are at the cornerstone of the battle to defend our planet. Their crucial role and their increasing vulnerability should actions not be not taken are indeed recognised by international frameworks including the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction and the 2030 Agenda.
The Sendai Framework states: “The present framework will apply to the risk of small-scale and large-scale, frequent and infrequent, sudden and slow-onset disasters, caused by natural or man-made hazards as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.
Building on the Hyogo Framework for Action, the present framework aims to achieve the following outcome over the next 15 years:
The substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.
The 2030 Agenda sets the following targets:
11.5 By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
11.6 By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
11.8 By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels
Recognising the challenge, UNISDR initiated a Making Cities Resilient (MCR) Campaign in May 2010. Today, thanks to the contribution of many outstanding campaigners – among which Enel Foundation – over 4,100 Mayors have joined the Campaign by committing their cities to take steps to reduce urban risk.
The MCR campaign has created a platform for dialogue and exchange and has developed a number of tools and technical guidance to support capacity development and implementation of disaster risk reduction at the local level.
A key tool of the MCR Campaign is the Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities1. This Scorecard covers the ability of a city to understand the disaster risks it may face, to mitigate those risks, and to respond to disasters that may occur, so that immediate and longer-term loss of life or damage to livelihoods, property, infrastructure, economic activity, and the environment is minimised. In addition, the Scorecard requires city planners to consider that chronic stresses can affect the likelihood or severity of an acute shock event, as well as undermine a city’s capacity to respond and adapt. For example, deforestation may increase the potential for flash flooding, and green areas may help in flood and stormwater management, etc.
The primary purpose of the Scorecard is to assist countries and local governments in monitoring and reviewing progress and challenges in the implementation of the Sendai Framework while enabling development of local disaster risk reduction strategy (and DRR plans).
The Scorecard is a crucial tool, incredibly useful to trigger public-private cooperation. It recognises that a city is a system of systems, with each of those systems (e.g. communications, water, sanitation, energy, healthcare, welfare, law and order, education, businesses, social and neighbourhood systems) potentially having separate owners and stakeholders. Resilience needs consideration within and across each of these systems and therefore can only be achieved through effective collaboration.
In 2017, a UNISDR study of 151 local governments in different regions of the world highlighted the gap between power and responsibility. On average, 88% of local governments are ‘fully or partially’ responsible for undertaking risk analysis within their administrative boundaries, while only 28% of local governments report having the ‘full’ technical capacity to undertake DRR actions and 25% of local governments report ‘not having’ adequate and capable technical capacity to undertake risk analysis.2
Cities need to start using the Scorecard to establish a baseline of resilience, and public-private cooperation must support cities in the process. The Scorecard does not only prepare the city to face natural disasters but offers a first step towards environmental sustainability at large.
2 The analysis is based on the Scorecard assessments of 169 cities from Asia (51), Americas (48), Africa (50), and Arab States (20), completed in 2017-2018. The Scorecard is structured around the ‘Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient’ (MRC Campaign).